[ stres ]
See synonyms for: stressstressedstressesstressing on

  1. importance attached to a thing: to lay stress upon good manners.

  2. Phonetics. emphasis in the form of prominent relative loudness of a syllable or a word as a result of special effort in utterance.

  1. Prosody. accent or emphasis on syllables in a metrical pattern; beat.

  2. emphasis in melody, rhythm, etc.; beat.

  3. the physical pressure, pull, or other force exerted on one thing by another; strain.

    • the action on a body of any system of balanced forces whereby strain or deformation results.

    • the amount of stress, usually measured in pounds per square inch or in pascals.

    • a load, force, or system of forces producing a strain.

    • the internal resistance or reaction of an elastic body to the external forces applied to it.

    • the ratio of force to area.

  4. Physiology. a specific response by the body to a stimulus, as fear or pain, that disturbs or interferes with the normal physiological equilibrium of an organism.

  5. physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension: Worry over his job and his wife's health put him under a great stress.

  6. a situation, occurrence, or factor causing this: The stress of being trapped in the elevator gave him a pounding headache.

  7. Archaic. strong or straining exertion.

verb (used with object)
  1. to lay stress on; emphasize.

  2. Phonetics. to pronounce (a syllable or a word) with prominent loudness: Stress the first syllable of “runner.” Stress the second word in “put up with.”: Compare accent (def. 18).

  1. to subject to stress or strain.

  2. Mechanics. to subject to stress.

verb (used without object)
  1. to experience stress or worry: Don't stress about the turkey; I promise it will be delicious.Dad is always stressing out over his job.

Origin of stress

First recorded in 1275–1325; (noun) Middle English stresse, aphetic variant of distresse; (verb) derivative of the noun; see origin at distress

Other words for stress

Other words from stress

  • stressless, adjective
  • stress·less·ness, noun
  • an·ti·stress, adjective
  • de-stress, verb (used with object)
  • non·stress, noun
  • o·ver·stressed, adjective
  • re·stress, verb
  • un·der·stress, noun
  • un·der·stress, verb (used with object)
  • well-stressed, adjective

Words that may be confused with stress

Words Nearby stress

Other definitions for -stress (2 of 2)


  1. a feminine equivalent of -ster: seamstress; songstress.

Origin of -stress

2 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use stress in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for stress (1 of 2)


/ (strɛs) /

  1. special emphasis or significance attached to something

  2. mental, emotional, or physical strain or tension

  1. emphasis placed upon a syllable by pronouncing it more loudly than those that surround it

  2. such emphasis as part of a regular rhythmic beat in music or poetry

  3. a syllable so emphasized

  4. physics

    • force or a system of forces producing deformation or strain

    • the force acting per unit area

  1. (tr) to give emphasis or prominence to

  2. (tr) to pronounce (a word or syllable) more loudly than those that surround it

  1. (tr) to subject to stress or strain

  2. informal (intr) to become stressed or anxious

Origin of stress

C14: stresse, shortened from distress

Derived forms of stress

  • stressful, adjective
  • stressfully, adverb
  • stressfulness, noun

British Dictionary definitions for -stress (2 of 2)


suffix forming nouns
  1. indicating a woman who performs or is engaged in a certain activity: songstress; seamstress Compare -ster (def. 1)

Origin of -stress

from -st (e) r + -ess

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Scientific definitions for stress


[ strĕs ]

  1. The force per unit area applied to an object. Objects subject to stress tend to become distorted or deformed. Compare strain. See also axial stress shear stress. See more at Hooke's law.

    • A physiologic reaction by an organism to an uncomfortable or unfamiliar physical or psychological stimulus. Biological changes result from stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system, including a heightened state of alertness, anxiety, increased heart rate, and sweating.

    • The stimulus or circumstance causing such a reaction.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for stress (1 of 2)


In physics, the internal resistance of an object to an external force that tends to deform it.


A physical factor, such as injury, or mental state, such as anxiety, that disturbs the body's normal state of functioning. Stress may contribute to the development of some illnesses, including heart disease and cancer.

Notes for stress

The term stress also refers to the physical and mental state produced in the body when it is influenced by such factors: “The stress of the new job was too much for Tim, so he requested reassignment to his old position in the company.”

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.